Shining a light
Day 3? Really? Feels like 30. (Holla if you just heard Ian Gillan singing in your head.) I'm tired and I'm constipated, but I'm still going. I know that's probably more information than you want, but my filters aren't working all that well right now.
No coffee this morning, not even a kiss from my husband while he was having his morning cup. I also skipped the gym this morning, which is almost more of a challenge for me than abstaining from my favorite food and drink.
I'm a bit of an exercise junkie. I've been going to the gym before work in the morning for more than 20 years. I'm dedicated to remaining as strong and healthy as I can. I plan on being around for a long time; there is still so much I want to do.
Having less energy due to a drop in calories and caffeine makes going to the gym more difficult and this is shining a light on my relationship with exercise and my body.
I do admit to being hyper-focused on my physical fitness. It's not always because I want more muscle, or because I need to lose weight; it's not always vanity. Sometimes it is. OK, often it is. But just as often, working out is just how I deal with life. It gives me an outlet for coping with stress, anxiety, and frustration. So it's not that going to the gym every day isn't a good habit, because it is. But in my case, I have been known to turn down social invitations or forego a church activity that I'd like to be involved in if it means I can't get to bed early enough to get up at 4:00 or 5:00 am and hit the gym.
That kind of obsession is a perfect example of how a good and healthy habit can become a stumbling block. The point of exercising should be to get healthy and have more energy so I can do more in my life - serve others, visit friends, be productive at my work, enjoy my family, have an active schedule of meaningful tasks. The point of exercising can't be so that I can, um, exercise more. What am I getting in shape FOR?
Fasting is shining a light on how eating can become a stumbling block too. Most basically, we eat to stay alive and to have energy to fuel our activities. Beyond that, we eat for pleasure, which is good in moderation. But when the eating becomes an end in itself - when we eat so that we may consume - or when we use food as a way to deal with our feelings, we've become disconnected from its true value and the use for which it was designed.
At a recent service my Pastor spoke about sanctification. To sanctify someone or something is to "set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer." When you use a pen to write a note, you are sanctifying the pen. If you use a pen to stir your coffee or clean your ears, not so much.
When objects are taken out of a state of sanctification, things start to go wrong. When things like eating and exercise and sex and drinking and medicine wander away from the purposes for which they were designed, we can become prisoners of our appetites and our habits. We attempt to calm and comfort ourselves through the things that we do and consume, instead of taking our cares to the Designer Himself. If you do enough of that, you end up living in total chaos, running hard and fast to satisfy appetites that will never be quenched, and never really solving the underlying issues; life becomes an exhausting game of whack-a-mole.
Maybe one of the reasons God asks us to fast is because He wants us to get down to the basics of things: Food for nourishment, water for hydration, movement for utility. When we fast, all the ways in which the components of our lives are abused or neglected come to the forefront and we get the opportunity to sanctify them by recalibrating their role in our lives. And maybe as we do that, we become sanctified too.
Fasting is revealing to me the extent to which I have become disconnected from the sanctification of food, drink, and exercise, among other things. It silences the noise of my appetites and enables me to make my choices from a heart that does not seek consumption, suppression, or anesthesia, but rather that seeks sanctification.
In the void
In the absence of eating and drinking comes the sustenance of prayer and the comfort of fellowship. In the quiet of stillness comes rest and communion.
In my stillness, my prayers have changed, too. Instead of telling God what I think He should do, or asking for guidance and then frantically doing everything I can think of, hoping to hit on the right thing, I'm resting in His perfect wisdom, in His knowledge of me and my greatest good. He knows what I want and need. He's not on a line with static that can only be broken through with incessant pleading and goals and plans and curls and spins and coffee and tea and noise and busyness.
I'm the one with the static on the line. Fasting breeds stillness. Stillness breeds silence. Silence breeds clarity.